Monday, April 22, 2013

Where We Are

In the “hearings of interest” below, the list grows shorter and shorter each week… Four weeks left in this legislative session.  The action takes place more and more on the floors of the chambers not in their committees.

One lobbyist says that if an item hasn’t passed out of one chamber by not, it’s not going to make it across the finish line.  That’s a good indicator, but with a month left, there are plenty of vehicles around, and it’s easy to tack things on.  So nothing is dead yet.

Here’s where some of the higher profile items appear to stand…

Medicaid Expansion – the momentum is gone on this issue.  I’ve had comments from both sides of the aisles blaming Nixon for the massive rally last week as another nail in the coffin.  The Dem said that it was all for Nixon’s ego, that you don’t make a deal happen by throwing it in GOP legislators’ faces.  The Republican said the exact same thing.  After all the blood, sweet and bruises that Rep. Jay Barnes took, he deserves his hour of debate on the issue, but there’s no one now who sees a vote in the House.  And maybe nothing to debate in the Senate.

Bond Issuance for Education – it’s been verrrry quiet on this for the past few weeks.  Lots of hearings, but when does it come to the floor of the House.  The thirty-year bond is under 3%.  If the fiscal hawks truly believed that the Fed’s QE programs will create inflation, they could put their money where their mouth is and borrowing as much money as possible at this ridiculous rate.  But rationality aside, the issue had to move if it’s going to move across the finish line.

Sales Tax for Transportation – The Senate approved this, so the ball is in the House’s court.  I had expected that this and bonding would be married so create one very tough vote, rather than two pretty tough votes.  Perhaps the House will do that.  Others think that the House will add some tax cuts to the package to sweeten the bitter.  But the more complicated things get, the more the clock works against you.  The good news here is that amazingly there doesn’t appear to be any organized opposition, just the natural anti-tword impulse in almost every Missouri legislator…

Distressed Land Tax Credit Extension – This is the “McKee” credit.  But it’s been expanded and also includes the Bannister Mall as well.  It’s on the House’s ecodevo bill, so it’s still in play, but there’s plenty of skepticism in the building.  If it goes anything like McKee’s China Hub there’s going to be a terrible amount of talking, negotiating and back-and-forth with an all-out final days push.  The idea on these big ticket items is to work like mad to get the bill in the “red zone” for the final week.  Then you have four downs to throw the ball in the corner of the end zone and hope the ref lifts his arms…

Global Tax Credit Deal – On the one hand hardly anything has changed on this issue.  The House leadership is still firmly set against major changes in the two big tax credit programs – Historics and Low-Income.  On the other hand something has changed: no Jason Crowell.  Without Crowell in the Senate, there may be more openness to baby steps.  Instead of the his all-or-nothing approach (which resulted in nothing), the Senate may be fine doing something. 

Prevailing Wage and Paycheck Protection/Deception – These are the legislature’s anti-labor attacks this session.  It appears that Republicans have the ability to pass these and send them to the governor’s desk.  And – additionally – that they don’t have necessary votes to override the governor’s veto.   Labor is doing a good job in fighting these measures.  Even though they will lose the floor votes, they will demonstrate their importance to the governor.  And they are sending a message that they have a shot at beating back “right to work” if it comes up next year.

ISRS – the water ISRS vote in the Senate was serious blow.  But in the following days, I saw Warner Baxter walking the halls.  There’s no indication that Ameren has withdrawn so it’s still in play.

Teacher Evaluations – HB 631 went down in a belly flop with only 55 votes in favor.  Supporters claim that there were another dozen who would bite the bullet on the tough vote if they were within striking distance of passage.  If true that leaves them still a long dozen short.

Virtual Schools – The same coalition against virtual schools appears mobilized and prepared to defeat virtual schools by a similar margin.

Softball Wednesday

Last week’s legislative softball game was rained out.  It’s rescheduled for his Wednesday.  That makes the only available work nights for this week tonight and Tuesday.

Medicaid Bits

An AP story in Washington Post this morning warns that states that aren’t expanding Medicaid are in for rougher waters… 

Pull Quote: “Rejecting the Medicaid expansion in the federal health care law could have unexpected consequences for states where Republican lawmakers remain steadfastly opposed to what they scorn as ‘Obamacare.’  It could mean exposing businesses to Internal Revenue Service penalties and leaving low-income citizens unable to afford coverage even as legal immigrants get financial aid for their premiums. For the poorest people, it could virtually guarantee that they will remain uninsured and dependent on the emergency room at local hospitals that already face federal cutbacks.”   See it here.

Barnes’ Newest Cause

With Medicaid expansion seemingly on ice, Rep. Jay Barnes is turning his attention to the state’s practice of hiring an outside firm to help it off-load its welfare recipients onto the federal disability program, thereby saving the state tax dollars.  The peerless John Combest linked to an AP story yesterday previewing today hearing (which will be held at 2PM, not the usual 1PM).  See it here.

In the article AP’s Jordan Shapiro says that the third party, Public Consulting Group, has state contracts worth $650,000.  Presumably they are saving the state at least that amount.

And – note that last week Public Consulting Group seeing The Barnes-inator headed in their direction went out and hired a lobbyist… Richard McIntosh of Flotron and McIntosh.

 

Senate Hearings of Interest

Elections Committee, Monday 2:30PM, Senate Lounge

Jason Smith’s HCS HB 110 finally gets a Senate hearing.  Remember when Republicans were all hot and heavy for this?  It’s the bill which would unambiguously make statewide offices (like lieutenant governor) subject to elections when there’s a vacancy.   Now that the 8-CD episode seems safely behind us, the urgency has lifted.  Perhaps someone should mention the possibility of Kinder running in a 2014 congressional primary to renew the political resolve for making this happen?

Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, Wednesday, 8:30AM, Senate Lounge

Democratic activist Aimee Gromowsky is on the docket to get the nod for the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority.  I think this is the replacement for Stephen Bough’s appointment which was sunk by Dem in-fighting.

House Hearings of Interest

Fiscal Review Committee, Monday 1PM, HR3

Anne Zerr’s economic development bill HB 698 should get voted out of fiscal review, one more step on its way to the House floor…

                                   

Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, Monday 2PM, HR7

Jay Barnes’ new investigation (see above): “The Committee will hear testimony on the contract the Department of Social Services has entered into with the Public Consulting Group.”           

           

Judiciary Committee, Monday 6PM, Das Stein Haus

Not sure if anything interesting is going on here, but in my five years doing this, I’ve always wanted to go to Das Stein Haus (stone’s throw from Truman Hotel), but never have. 

Remember Jake?

Former state representative Jake Zimmerman skedaddled out of Jeff City a few years ago and took the reins at the St. Louis County Assessor’s Office.  He is, by some accounts a future St. Louis County Executive at some point down the road.

Well he’s having a re-election kick-off fundraiser on Thursday 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm at Starr’s Restaurant (1135 S. Big Bend Blvd, Richmond Heights, MO 63117).  See the website here.

Big Sky in the Halls

In the registrations below, note that former state representative Tom Loehner is indeed beginning his lobbyist career…

Schaefer Stays Neutral on Nixon Impeachment

From CDT’s article on the DOR scandal:  “When members of the audience called for impeachment of Gov. Jay Nixon; [Sen. Kurt] Schaefer didn’t encourage or discourage the thought. ‘I hear your concern, and we will see where this all goes,’ he said.”  Read it here.

eMailbag: Haters Gonna Hate

“Spellcheck doesn't recognize provel, and neither should Missouri.”

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:

David Fernandez added Altria Client Services Inc and its affiliates Phillip Morris USA Inc…

Susan S Hensley added Pfizer Inc.

Tom Loehner added Gallagher Consultants Inc.

Birthdays

Happy birthday to Sen. Gary Romine (57).